Many unmarried individuals, particularly fathers, may have the wrong impression that because they were not married to their partner when a child was conceived and born that they do not have any parental rights. However, our Michigan parents will find it informative to learn that view is a relic of the past. In fact, several cases in the last few decades challenged this view, and the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed constitutional protections that should be afforded to a father particularly when that father has established a significant relationship with the child, and has played an active role in the upbringing of the child.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court noted that where a biological link, also known as paternity, has been established, the father should be given the chance to develop a relationship with the child, and be involved in the child’s life. But, what is the definition of a father? State law defines who a father is, and any rights that may be granted to a father depend on the statutory definitions, and whether or not paternity has been established.
Under Michigan family law, the man who decides to complete and signs an acknowledgment of parentage of the child is considered to be the father unless the mother denies it. It is important to note that this individual may not necessarily be the biological father but is the acknowledged father. An individual who alleges to be the biological father instead of the acknowledged father may file intent to claim paternity. The person who files such intent is entitled to a notice of hearings involving the determination of the identity of the father, and any parental termination proceedings.
In some cases a revocation of claim to paternity may be filed by a prosecutor, mother, acknowledged father or the alleged father. Such an action must be filed either one year after the acknowledgement of parentage was signed or within three years after the child’s birth. The party filing the revocation of paternity claim has the burden of showing that the acknowledged father is not the biological father of the child. The court may order a blood test to settle the issue.
Thus, what rights an unmarried father has with a child will depend on whether paternity has been established, and whether the individual is the acknowledged father. But, the important thing to keep in mind is that fathers’ have rights.
Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “The Rights of Unmarried Fathers,” Child Welfare Information Gateway, Accessed Oct. 27, 2014